Thursday, January 06, 2005

Good teacher, bad teacher

Good teacher: The kids liked the sharks movie. I've shown maybe ten films at various points in my teaching career and this is one of the only ones that wasn't boring me to tears even after I'd seen it five times. Shark mating seems fairly unpleasant; it involves the male biting the female's fins and pinning her down. Then there's a bunch of rolling around, during which time neither shark can breathe very well, since sharks have to swim in order for water to pass over their gills. Mercifully, the whole thing is over in about 2 minutes, at least in the species they showed in this film. Skates and rays have the most adorable little embryos, which develop inside egg cases also known as "mermaid's purses." The adults aren't much to look at, but darn those young are cute!

Bad teacher: The kids continue to be mildly bad. Today, two boys talked back to me. I'd dug myself into a rather stupid hole by asking a rhetorical question which fairly begged to be answered impertinently... but it was still really annoying, especially because I got the feeling from the rest of the students that they were on the side of the disrespectful students and were thoroughly enjoying watching a teacher go down in flames. *sigh* I probably pushed them further in that direction by being strict in a harsh way for the rest of the period.

Good teacher: The "design a fish" assignment is a good assignment! I keep reminding myself of that. The students have to take what they've learned in class about the different types of fish and their adaptations, along with additional information I provided about how fin, body, and mouth shape help fish fit into different environments, and create their own imaginary fish. They have to draw a picture of it in its environment, and write a one page description of their fish and its adaptations. The kids like the project; they keep coming up to me to show me sketches of their fish.

Bad teacher: I can't get up in the morning. It's too dark, too cold, I'm too tired. I sneak into school three minutes before the day begins, day after day. I don't feel motivated. My teaching feels like it's on cruise control - it's not awful, but it's not great, either. The workshop model has gone straight out the window, especially the sharing part.

Good teacher: I am asking the students to grade their own work on the fish project using a rubric which I provided. This promotes metacognition.

Bad teacher: I hate teaching afterschool. If I didn't have to teach afterschool, I would get all my work done in about 2-3 hours after school each day, then come home and live a normal life. But afterschool is important, it provides enrichment/remediation for the kids, keeps them busy in productive ways after school, and plus it provides my spending money for the month. It's not going to go away, and I can't quit, before you suggest either of those things.

Good teacher: I picked up two whole fish from the grocery store. The fish guys restored my faith in humanity by giving them to me at half-price since they are for my students to look at. They were really enthusiastic and encouraged me to take a flounder 'cause it is the only fish with both eyes on one side of the body (apparently this was the only question on the "Millionaire" game show that the fish guy knew the answer to). So I bought a flounder and a bluefish. I'm going to design an activity for tomorrow involving several stations. One will be observing the flounder - body shape, fins, etc. One will be observing the bluefish, particularly the gills. One will be reading some background material on the two fish. One will be using observations and the background material to write a short compare/contrast essay about the two fish. One will be observing our classroom goldfish to see how they use their fins to move through the water, and perhaps also how many "breaths" they take per minute. And one will be designing an experiment to find out if fish "breathing" rate correlates with water temperature. Oh, and one will be looking at a fish scale under the microscope.

Hmmm... on balance, perhaps I'm doing all right! That is not what my gut was telling me. The behavior problems and my inability to deal well with them was really getting to me. Hopefully, that will improve when I feel more energetic.


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Blogger Warner said...

Great post that almost bring tears to my eyes. As a recently minted college teacher, I truly love my students and their work. I will do whatever thing to help them get ahead. I am proud of them when I see thoughtful and sympathetic when I see struggle. Their interest is infectious and mutually helpful.
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